It wasn’t until early in the fourth quarter Tuesday that the Assumption girls’ pressure defense got into gear.
In less than a minute, the Royals forced Auburndale into three straight turnovers that turned a four-point lead into 10, as Assumption took control en route to a 41-32 Marawood Conference South Division victory.
The undefeated Royals, who are the top Division 5 team in this week’s The Associated Press state poll, improved to 13-0 overall and 7-0 in the conference, good for a two-game lead on the rest of the Marawood touth. Assumption coach Joe Birkhauser is aware that there is plenty of games left in the regular season.
“We’re in a good position, but the league race is still tight and far from over,” Birkhauser said. “The top six teams in the conference can beat anyone on any given night, so we have to be ready every time out because we have a bull’s eye on our backs.”
Auburndale, which slipped to 6-2 in the South Divison, led after the first quarter, but trailed by five points going into the final quarter.
Melanie Brandl, who led Auburndale with 10 points, made a pair of free throws with 7 minutes, 11 seconds to go to pull her team within three points at 25-22, but Assumption went on its run moments later.
By the midway point of the quarter, the Royals held a 34-24 advantage.
“Our press got Auburndale to turn over the ball a couple times in the early part of the fourth quarter and we got some quck points,” said Assumption freshman Gena Grundhoffer, who led the Royals with 19 points.
Auburndale had six tunovers in the fourth quarter and 15 for the game, but a few at the beginning of the quarter hurt the most.
“We had some crucial turnovers at some bad times for us,” Auburndale coach Liz Nagel said. “They took got some quick points and took control of the game in the fourth quarter.
“This is a big week for us because we have Newman on Friday,” Nagel added. “A lot can happen in the next few weeks in terms of the conference and I hope our girls are fired up and willing to work even harder after this game to get back on track and stay in the conference race.”
Early on, the defenses were so stingy that it wasn’t until the 3:47 mark of the first quarter that either team made a basket. The Royals Mary Sigler dropped in a layup for the first points of the game.
With the strong defensive play, shots from the field were held to a minimum, but Assumption was able to make up some ground by going 16 for 22 from the free throw line.
“We took care of things from the charity stripe tonight,” Birkhauser said. “We need to be able to shoot like that in these tight games. That certainly helped us out tonight.”
AUBURNDALE: Mikayla Jankowski 4, Becky Willfahrt 4, Nicole Nikolay 5, Emma Steines 3, Melanie Brandl 10, Shannon Yahnke 4, Kendra Kundinger 2. Totals 11-33 9-15 32.
ASSUMPTION: Mary Sigler 11, Brittney Birkhauser 6, Gena Grundhoffer 19, Macie Zurfluh 3, Jane Newman 2.
3-poniters: Auburndale 1-7 (Steines); Assumption 1-4 (Sigler).
Records: Assumption 13-0, 7-0 Marawood South; Auburndale 9-5 6-2 Marawood South.